If you’ve read many of my ‘Musings’, you know that Doyle and I have read through the entire Bible several times over the last few years, (me reading, him listening). We have read many different translations/paraphrases and even the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version called, The Story by Max Lucado. We’ve read the chronological Bible, The Message, the Amplified Bible and even the New Testament version called, The Cotton Patch Version, somewhat popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
The first time we began to read the Bible, I remember that we struggled through the Old Testament. It was an exercise in torture–mentally and emotionally. There was so much violence. The picture of God to me at that time was an angry, vindictive God, who punished His people in terrible, often unpredictable ways. I preferred to think of God as love, not punishment and judgment. I remember the relief when we got to the New Testament–and Jesus.
As those years have gone by, I have come to love and respect the writings of the Old Testament. Granted reading it can be tedious. Often there are whole chapters, even books of genealogy and names that are unpronounceable, but I am realizing that these lists are important as we link our beginnings to Adam, then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to trace back the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah.
It also has become apparent that this violence and punishment was all because they refused to obey God. He was very clear in His expectations and raised up Kings and Prophets to speak to the people for Him. He constantly warned about keeping His commandments and intermarrying with pagan people, because He knew their hearts would be turned away from Him. Actually His patience with these groups of people was amazing. If you take time to look at a timeline, hundreds of years separate the actions/disobedience of the people to His actual punishment, like allowing them to be taken into exile or being overthrown by pagan nations.
I also began to see why it was necessary for Him to come to earth in the physical body of Jesus to teach us how to live and then to pay the ultimate blood sacrifice once and for all for our sins. But, only if we believe that He is indeed the Messiah and invite Him into our hearts to guide us in this life on earth, with anticipation of an eternal life with Him. It reminds me of an illustration Doyle used to use in teaching youth many years ago. I probably won’t get it right, but it was about a group of baby ducks out in the storm, lost and disorganized. The farmer tried to gather them up but they only scattered more. He thought, ‘If only I could become the mother duck, then they would follow me into safety.’ God came to earth as Jesus, in a human body, so we could follow Him into the safe arms of God, no matter the storms raging in our lives.
Fast forward to today. America is a young country, just over 200 years old. She was founded by people who were fleeing a country that mandated religion as a part of the government. The founding fathers based our country’s laws and government on Christianity and the Bible was the source. Many of our civil laws date back to Old Testament laws. Prayer and the Bible were an important part of all aspects of our lives. Children in schools were taught morality based on scripture, and prayer was the start of every school day. My third grade teacher, whom I loved dearly, had us to memorize the first Psalm. I can still recite most of it. Most of our teachers were Christian and our parents trusted them to discipline us at school just as they disciplined us at home.
Our country has a law called ‘separation of church and state’, which is to protect us from being mandated to a certain faith. We are free to choose and worship without interference from the government. Early in our history, foreigners were encouraged and welcomed into our great country. There was a process for becoming a US citizen and the people who came assimilated into our culture, learned our language and enjoyed our freedoms.
Sometime in the 1960’s things began to change–or at least that is the time period that the changes became public knowledge through television, radio and other media methods. This happened to be my generation of young people. So many threw away the morals and values of their parents and it was ‘free love’. I am not knowledgeable enough to analyze all that happened, but I do know we truly began to move away from church, God, and all that kept us grounded. In watching how God dealt with disobedience in the Bible, I am certain that His hand is moving in our world today. As I’ve read through the Old Testament so many times, I have begun to wonder if the things we are seeing in our country today are the result of our turning away from God. Is He allowing our country to be led by people with foreign ideas and beliefs to punish us? Is the Covid-19 pandemic a plague, that He has allowed as a result of our disobedience? I know it’s dangerous to expect we can know the mind of our Sovereign God, but He does give us a glimpse into His nature (a God of unconditional love, but also a Just God), His love for us, and His desire that no one should perish or live eternally without Him. He will do whatever it takes to wake us up.
As Christians we know that we are merely traveling through this life/world. Our home is in heaven and at some point in the future, He will return to this earth and set up His kingdom here. No one but God knows the time this will take place. This thought reminds me of a sign Doyle made for the cabin. It says: “In February, 2002, God loaned us this beautiful spot in North Georgia to enjoy in this life. When we’re gone, it will no longer belong to us. Please enjoy your time here and help us to keep its beauty as God has intended.” Nothing here on this earth is really ours. We came into the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing.
I guess my intent in musing about God and the Old Testament is to encourage you to read it. I can promise it will be painful and difficult, but as you read the books beginning with Genesis–In the beginning God–you will begin to see Jesus. He is all through the Old Testament as a promise. You will begin to see the scarlet thread of redemption, just as we have seen it. And, you will be so happy to get to the books of the New Testament and will see why we need a Savior. 😊